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Newsletter "174" December 2004


Bugsworth Basin Report Retrieving vandalised setts New History Website Boat Rally Easter 2005
Strange Equipment Engine for Sale The Survey Boat Intrepid Support the Sleaford
Chapel Incline Plane CD-ROM Sales An odd scene repeated News from the IWA
Bugsworth Census 1881 Bugsworth Dredging Cruise of the NB Laura Babblings by Pete Yearsley
Pete Yearsley an appreciation Pete's 1st Walk Report    

Merry Christmas and a happy new year

Dredging the Gauging Stop Place
November 2004
 Photograph: P J Whitehead

Bugsworth Basin Report

by Ian Edgar MBE   -     Chairman and Hon Site Manager

Progress once again rules in that the Entrance Canal has now been dredged ready for the relining works to be started in January 2005. This work was very efficiently carried out by Land & Water Contractors for British Waterways who also took the opportunity to dredge the section between the junction and the By-Pass bridge as well. The silt was taken to Whaley Bridge Basin where it was off-loaded from the mud boats to road trailers for transport to the tip on Dolly Lane Buxworth. The contractors also did some spot dredging in the Basin proper - mainly around the wharf at Silk Hill and in the Upper Basin. The clay bunds left by Dews following the main contract works to seal the Entrance basin etc. were also removed by the dredgers and it was not long before some boats were once again right up to the head of navigation. This created no problem for the work and no effort was made by either the IWPS or BW to stop navigation. However a sink hole did appear in the entrance canal where it is on a steep embankment and we decided in the interests of safety and prudence we would put the stop planks back in at Canal House and at the By-Pass Bridge. This is not a new problem and will be cured as part of the planned works to start in January. The main basins will continue in water with the feed from the Blackbrook.

Members will remember we had to renew the decking on Bridges 58 and 59 with Ekki. This is a very hard equatorial hardwood which, unfortunately, has proved to be extremely slippery when wet. We have closed both bridges pending the laying of a non-slip surface to be supplied by British Waterways. In co-operation with BW, they supply the materials and the IWPS volunteers do the fitting. This work should have been completed by the New Year.

Funding has now been secured in co-operation with BW to convert the steps at the head of the Middle Basin Arm into a disabled friendly ramp. Although this was mentioned in the last Report funding at that time had not been confirmed. Although it is not a big job and will be done by our old friend Geoff Porritt with materials mostly in stock completion will enable us to conform with new legislation for disabled access.

In the last '174' I advised that it was unlikely that the Upper Basin would be available for navigation once the rest of the Basin was opened following the major works. Following a risk assessment review (which has to be undertaken from both a Health & Safety aspect as well as a structural risk to the Ancient Monument) we have decided to erect a barrier only across the northern arm of the Upper Basin. The rest of the Upper Basin will be available for turning boats and for mooring.

Mooring at Bugsworth Basin, as with the last time it was opened, will be limited to 48 hours and will be controlled by the IWPS in co-operation with the British Waterways Enforcement Officer. Over-stay was not a problem last time but both the IWPS and BW are determined that the integrity of the Basin will be protected and the 48 hour rule will be enforced. In the event of special circumstances, emergencies etc. a longer stay may be possible but only by prior arrangement. No mooring ( as last time) will be allowed on the Entrance Canal. This is because, despite the section having been dredged and re-lined, it is still a very narrow channel for two boats to pass. The lining must be protected against misuse by boats thrashing about and poles being pushed in to the bed. Indications are that Bugsworth Basin will be very busy and the management of the Basin must take due recognisance of that.

The mooring rings mentioned in the last '174' have now been received from British Waterways and the new type approved by English Heritage. These will be fitted shortly and certainly before navigation returns.

The final wharf clearance is now in hand. This is the southern wharf beneath the kilns and includes the wharf which served Styles Coal Yard. Most of the overhanging trees have been cut back and the ground vegetation cleared. Machine levelling and seeding of the wharf will be undertaken early 2005.

A new and very interesting development is that the Society have recovered the bollard which formerly stood alongside the Gauging Stop Place and to which boats were tethered whilst being gauged. For many years in the garden of Canal House, and with the generosity of Dave Wild, it will now be reinstated in the original position. Dave has kindly loaned us photos of himself as a young man with the single mooring bollard clearly shown. These photos have been placed in the Society Archive as several others discovered by Dave in the family records. It is fortunate that this historical item survived, as it was a young Dave Wild with his father who rescued it when the contractors were laying the sewer alongside the canal.


Due to the generosity of several members and the sale of redundant equipment we have now reached the point where sufficient finance is now available for us to purchase a Kubota Diesel Tractor Mower. This has been ordered for delivery in the spring and will work in tandem with our existing Honda tractor mower.

Our especial thanks go to The Inland Waterways Association for a grant of £2000 towards the cost of the mower and also to The Waterways Trust, who have provided £750.00. This purchase will ensure the Society volunteers are properly equipped to maintain the Basins to a very high standard for the thousands of expected visitors commencing next year (2005).


The original leaflet funded by Awards for All has been very successful but we have found that the 5000 print run has been totally inadequate. Such is the demand for this leaflet we are ordering 50,000 but with some minor amendments. This is being funded from several sources in co-operation with British Waterways.


Now that the major works to complete the restoration of Bugsworth Basin to a navigable standard are close to completion the Society has been in close consultation with British Waterways as to 'where do we go from here?' The Society produced a Vision Plan which was authored by Alan Findlow with input from other Council Members. This will form the basis of where we see the Basin going over the next 10 years and has received the outline approval of High Peak Borough Council. Each phase will require planning approval and plans are already in hand to produce drawings for the first stages of this vision which will be directed at Car Parking and permanent replacements for our existing container cabins. The 10-Year vision will be extremely expensive to deliver as a whole so we aim to progress by stages as and when funding opportunities arise. We hope to provide more detail in future issues of '174' but certainly the IWPS will continue to have a very high input in to developments at Bugsworth Basin.

In the meantime British Waterways in consultation with the IWPS sought tenders from reputable consultants to produce an Interpretative Plan which would aim to promote the strengths of the basin and fully utilise the potential which is there in the short term.

Consultants PJB Projects Ltd. of York have been appointed and the first meetings will take place early December. Work undertaken by PJB for British Waterways includes a Design Palette and an Interpretation Plan for Foxton Locks, Leeds Waterfront Design, a Development Plan for the Cotswold Canals and an Interpretation Strategy for Sowerby Bridge Wharf at the Junction of the Calder & Hebble Navigation and the Rochdale Canal. Funding is via the EC INTERREG which aims to promote sustainable access to National Parks. The Study forms just one portion of the Bugsworth Canal Basin project, the rest of which will be completed by early 2006.


Mentioned in the last issue of '174' preparations are now in hand for the boat rally at Easter 2005 (25th to 28th March). Plans are being made for at least 60 boats to attend and already 40 have booked. There will be entertainment over the weekend and entry for the public will be free. Boat booking fee is £10 which includes a brass Bugsworth Basin Plaque. Water space is extremely limited so Mike & Jill Malzard have a lot of planning to do to get everybody who books moored in the Basin safely. There will be no mooring available on the Entrance Canal. These preparations are taking up a great deal of organisational time so if any of our readers wants to bring their boat then Mike or Jill on 01663 735310 would appreciate knowing as soon as possible. For all our other non-boating members (actually the majority) then please get these dates in your diary and come along and celebrate the culmination of so many years of hard work by the IWPS and our volunteers.


Old hands at Bugsworth will no doubt remember the sheer legs which we used to lift the massive coping stones prior to relaying them in a straight and level line. We have no further use for these and we are looking for offers 'as lying'. Under modern regulations the purchaser will need to obtain certification as lifting apparatus and at his/her expense. We do not see a problem with this and would suspect the costs would not be excessive although it is likely the steel lifting cable would require replacement. If anybody is interested then please contact me on 01663 732493. Delivery can be arranged.

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Fred Wardle donned his gear to recover setts thrown into the canal by vandals who ripped up several rows from the top of the ramp of bridge 59. Incredibly, working by touch alone, Fred managed to recover virtually all of the missing setts.
Photos: Don Baines

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New History Website

You can now get a new glimpse of life in Derbyshire on this new photographic website: The Picture the Past website which is run by Derbyshire County Council, Derby City Council Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council features a searchable database of more than 40,000 historical images and visitors can buy copies of any pictures used.

The website can be found at 

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Strange Equipment on the Stockport Branch of the Ashton Canal

by Peter J Whitehead

Practically all Britain’s canal network was nationalised on the 1 January 1948 and it was a moment in time when the prospects for the Ashton, Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canals were grim and those for the branches of the Ashton Canal in particular were even grimmer.

It was an occasion when tried and tested equipment was being removed, now and again to be replaced by unfamiliar models, some of which were incompatible with canal use. One such was the bucket dredger ‘Lilliput’, which was introduced on the Ashton Canal to replace a steam dredger purpose built at the Gorton Canal Depot. The latter had been removed for service elsewhere, never to be seen again. ‘Lilliput’ soon found itself on the Stockport Branch and it is likely that this is where its short life ended.

The dredger ‘Lilliput’ at an unidentified location on the Stockport Branch of the Ashton Canal, 1950s.

Acknowledgement: Mr James Hirst

The origin of ‘Lilliput’ is a mystery. It is not known who made it, from whence it came and even its name could have been a soubriquet given to it by maintenance staff. James Hirst was given the job of operating it and he complained that its buckets were forever falling off and that it constantly slopped dredgings over him. The day when protective clothing would be supplied was still some way off dawning. Whether or not this odd-looking vessel ever did any serious work is another unsolved mystery.

Another oddity that James Hirst was involved with on the Stockport Branch around this time was a ‘mechanical towing horse’, again of unidentified manufacture. The true purpose of this vehicle is unknown and it is a matter of conjecture as to whether or not it was intended to tow horse-drawn working boats. Whatever its purpose, it was another short-lived piece of equipment.

The mechanical-towing horse at an unidentified location on the Stockport Branch of the Ashton Canal, 1950s.

Acknowledgement: Mr James Hirst

Yet another item, of which there is no photograph, was a tug that entered service on the main line of the Ashton Canal. Because of its deep draught it got as far as Guide Bridge with difficulty where it became stuck because the canal was too shallow for it. There was no alternative but to haul it back and this too was never seen again.

The steam dredger, purpose built at the Gorton Canal Depot, at an unidentified location on the Stockport Branch of the Ashton Canal, late 1940s.

Acknowledgement: Mr James Hirst

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For Sale

Kingfisher KD 14 hp Twin cylinder diesel engine

4200 hours since new

Direct cooling wet exhaust, low profile

Suit small narrow boat or GRP converting from petrol

Control cables and S/L control, spare water pump

A snip at £500

Mike Malzard Nb “Laura”, 01663 735310

Or have a word with Jim Ling

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The survey boat, Intrepid

by Peter J Whitehead

An interesting boat that could once be seen on the Ashton, Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canals was the survey boat, Intrepid. The earliest known reference to this boat is in the Return of Boats belonging to the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company, dated 1 January 1890. This shows that it was stationed at Fairfield on the Ashton Canal but the date of building is not given nor is it known where it was built. It may be that the old packet-boat house, below Fairfield top lock (lock 18), was used to accommodate Intrepid when not in use.

The survey boat, Intrepid, moored at an unidentified location on the Macclesfield Canal.

Photograph: The Jack Brady collection

The hull of Intrepid was shorter than that of a working boat with a cabin constructed on it that was reminiscent of a first-class railway dining coach. Officially, it was a survey boat but in reality it was a pleasure boat for the personal use of directors and other VIPs. Many canal companies operated such boats where management could hold ‘meetings’ as they took leisurely cruises through scenic countryside.

In the 1920s, when George Lucas was Inspector at the Gorton Canal Depot, the procedure was that he would receive a telephone call from the Engineer based at Guide Bridge Station, who was his superior. George would be instructed to prepare Intrepid for use and arrange for it to be towed the short distance to Guide Bridge. The maintenance boat, Joel, was often used for this purpose and at Guide Bridge it would be moored below the station in readiness. Meanwhile, the staff in the station refreshment room prepared a picnic hamper, which would be put on board prior to arrival of the VIPs by train. Once on board, the VIPs headed for the Lower Peak Forest Canal for an enjoyable cruise. Whenever Intrepid was moored at Fairfield its appearance, with starched tablecloths and gleaming silver cutlery, was a source of admiration to passing mill girls.

Around the time that canals were nationalised, on the 1 January 1948, Intrepid disappeared never to be seen again. Prior to its final voyage into oblivion the canteen of silver cutlery, with each piece inscribed M S & L R Co, vanished much to the dismay of local canal officials. As a consequence of this there are two unsolved mysteries. What happened to Intrepid and what happened to the canteen of silver cutlery?

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Sleaford Navigation Trust needs your support

The Lincolnshire Waterways Partnership is poised to spend millions of Lincolnshire County Council and outside money on upgrading and restoring the waterways of Lincolnshire. The Slea restoration stands to gain enormously from this input with eventual restoration a very good probability. In order to satisfy the requirement to demonstrate popular demand in the absence of a large Sleaford Navigation Trust membership, the senior LCC officer co-ordinating the partnership has decided to measure this support by counting the demand for the partnership newsletter.

The Lincolnshire Waterways Partnership newsletter is issued three times a year and is free to anyone who asks for it. It is issued in printed format only and all you have to do to get your copy is to email or write to the SNT secretary and ask for it. Just say you support the Slea restoration and would like to receive a copy of the Partnership newsletter.

Send your email request to 

Or write to her:

Mary Powell
Lincolnshire Development
Waterside South


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Chapel-en-le-Frith Incline Plane—1976

Looking up the inclined plane on the Peak Forest Tramway at Chapel-en-le-Frith, 7 Aug 1976.

This self-acting inclined plane has a horizontal length of 475 metres and a vertical rise of 64 metres. Descending loaded waggons pulled empty waggons up it under the action of gravity, the movement being controlled by the clever design of the plane itself and by a brakeman in a wooden tower at the Top o’ th’ Plane. Note the stone sleeper blocks still in situ.

Photograph: Peter J Whitehead

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Odd scenes repeated

by Peter J Whitehead

The photograph of Park Lock (lock 7), dating from c1920, shows four canal employees of the Great Central Railway Company. The question is just precisely what were these workmen doing posing, from left to right, with a shovel, brush, pitch fork and dustbin lid? The spot they are standing on looks clean and tidy enough and it could be that this gang was about to embark on another clean-up operation close by.

Compare the above picture, featured in the last issue of 174 with the one below taken on the Entrance Canal at Bugsworth in 1970. Striking a remarkably similar pose are IWPS volunteers: Peter Holden, P J Bunker, Martin Whalley, Peter Cooper, Anthony Clarke and John Greenway.

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News from the IWA

Droitwich Canals

On 8th October, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced that it had approved the bid by British Waterways for £4.6 million grant towards completion of the restoration of the Droitwich Barge Canal and the Droitwich Junction Canal.

The grant should provide just over one third of the funding required to compete restoration of the canals and thus create a 21-mile cruising ring, linking the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to the navigable river Severn. Studies previously commissioned and submitted to the Lottery Fund indicate that the restored Droitwich canals should generate an additional spend of £2.75 million per year within the local economy, and that the waterways are likely to play a key role in the regeneration of Droitwich Spa town centre with the development of a two-acre canalside site and marina.

Studies have also indicated that restoration of the canals may cause property values along the canal corridor to increase by up to 15% and encourage about 330,000 additional visits within five years, making the waterways one of the most visited tourist attractions in Worcestershire.

The project is backed by a partnership that includes British Waterways; The Waterways Trust; The Droitwich Canals Trust; Wychavon District Council and Worcestershire County Council. Restoration work has already benefited from financial support from IWA and a substantial voluntary labour contribution from Waterway Recovery Group. Droitwich Canals Trust, which led the campaign for the restoration of the canals over a thirty-year period, was set up by IWA.

In addition to the more obvious benefits for the local economy, boaters and other recreational users, the completion of the canal restoration will create over six hectares of new reed beds and habitat improvements to benefit species such as otters, birds, water voles and amphibians. There are over 40 structures of heritage importance along the canals, which are to be sensitively restored and conserved.

As well as the Heritage Lottery Fund grant for £4.6 million, Wychavon District Council and Worcestershire County Council have each allocated £1 million to the project, but works cannot start on site until 2nd stage approval for a £3 million grant is received from Advantage West Midlands to complete the funding package. This currently has a 1st stage approval and a decision from the regional development agency is due in December 2004.

As well as the contribution of £1 million, Wychavon District Council has also agreed to transfer the freehold of the canal to British Waterways at nil cost once the canal is restored. The canals were abandoned in 1939 and eventually acquired by the Council, which leased them to Droitwich Canals Trust shortly after the Trust's formation in 1973. The Trust is surrendering its lease of the canals to British Waterways.

River Ouse (Yorkshire)

The Highways Agency has come under criticism in Selby for failures of the new swing bridge that crosses the Yorkshire Ouse as part of the A63 Selby by-pass, which opened in June 2004. The road was shut on two Sundays in September and again on 3rd October for remedial work to be undertaken. The bridge, which was built at a low level, rather than at a fixed high level, to save costs and to reduce impact on the landscape, is manned continuously, and is estimated to be costing about £3,000 for every occasion the bridge is swung to allow a boat to pass.

Leeds & Liverpool Canal

A biological trial to control the fast-growing waterweed Azolla filiculoides on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Aintree has proved sufficiently successful for British Waterways to extend the treatment to other sites afflicted by the destructive fern. The trial has involved thousands of the captive-bred weevils, which have been set to munching through tonnes of the weed on a one-mile stretch of the canal during the first three weeks of October.

This is the first time weevils have been used in canals to try and control the damaging Azolla. Further trials are due to be undertaken over the rest of this growing season. Without control, Azolla can shade out other indigenous plants and reduce the oxygen levels in the water, harming fish and aquatic life and causing the water to smell. The thick mat of Azolla that had grown up on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal was also a hazard for boats, children and animals - misleading them into thinking that it was firm ground rather than water.

The weevils offer an environmentally friendly solution to the problem plant. Alternative methods of control are either mechanical - harvesting the weeds with buckets which is usually only effective in the short term - or using herbicides which have environmental disadvantages.

Azolla was introduced into England from the Americas in the 1800s, has no native natural control agents in this country and, if left untreated, can rapidly choke watercourses. British Waterways' trial on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal involves boosting the numbers of a naturally occurring two-millimetre-long weevil, which eats the Azolla and destroys it.

The weevils feed exclusively on Azolla, so are host specific and won't harm other plants. They have short life cycles and will die off once all the Azolla has gone. The North American weevil is already present in the UK - first recorded in 1921 and most likely arrived here by hitching a ride on Azolla plants imported by garden centres and aquarists.

Azolla significantly affects nine other British Waterways managed canals: the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal, Lancaster Canal and Shropshire Union Canal, the Montgomery Canal in Wales, Bow Back Rivers in London, the Huddersfield Broad, Grand Union Canal in Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire, Forth & Clyde Canal and the Wyrley & Essington Canal.

Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal

The Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society has been awarded the Manchester Civic Society's premier award 'The Spirit of Manchester 2004', the recipient being chosen by a democratic vote of individual members of the Manchester Civic Society.

The citation read, "Volunteers from the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society led by Margaret Fletcher, have campaigned for many years for the re-opening of the section of the canal connecting with Manchester's Castlefield Basin. Part of the battle has been won - a large development adjacent to the A6 in Salford will have, as a large scale working water-feature, the canal basin. The dedication of some of the society members has been such that they have barely taken holidays in case a single planning application that would have compromised the re-opening of the waterways was missed. Very much the Spirit of Manchester."

Immediate past recipients of the award have been Manchester's Metrolink Service, the volunteers of the Manchester Commonwealth Games, the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry and the Trustees and Friends of the Victoria Baths. The Award consists of a unique specially commissioned majolica plate about 2 feet in diameter in addition to the usual certificate.

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Residents of Bugsworth - 1881 Census

Extracted by Peter J Whitehead

An occasional series of extracts from the 1881 taken on Sunday, 3rd April and Monday, 4th April 1881.

Census Place: Chapel-en-le-Frith. Public Record Office Ref. RG11.

Key: Col. 2, Marital Status. Col. 3, Relationship to Head of Household. Col. 4, Age. Col. 6, Birthplace.

Dwelling: Bugsworth Canal Boat


Joseph M McKAY




Mate on Canal Boat

Hull, Yorks

Dwelling: Bugsworth Canal Boat


Joseph EDGE




Mate on Canal Boat

Macclesfield, Ches

Dwelling: Bugsworth Canal Boat


Chas. EDGE




Mate on Canal Boat

Macclesfield, Ches

Dwelling: Bugsworth Canal Boat


Robt. McLAIN




Mate on Canal Boat

Glasgow, Scotland

Dwelling: Bugsworth Canal Boat






Mate on Canal Boat

Stockport, Ches

Dwelling: Bugsworth Canal Boat






Mate on Canal Boat

Manchester, Lancs

Dwelling: Bugsworth Canal Boat


Chas. Saml. NEEDHAM




Mate on Canal Boat

Moseley, Ches

Dwelling: Bugsworth Canal Boat






Mate on Canal Boat

Bugsworth, Derbys

Dwelling: Bugsworth Canal Boat






Mate on Canal Boat

Marple, Ches

The Census returns show that nine boats were moored overnight at Bugsworth Basin but, unfortunately, they were not named. The most striking point is the youth of some of the Mates, the youngest of whom, Robert McLain, was just 11-years-old. With the exception of Edward Barnes, who was a widower, none of the mates was married. Only one Mate, James Ellis, was born at Bugsworth but John Morten was born at nearby Marple. Two Mates were born outside the area, Joseph M McKay was born at Hull and Robert McLain was born at Glasgow.

One can only speculate as to how an 11-year-old boy from Glasgow managed to become a Mate on a boat on the Peak Forest Canal.

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Entrance Canal Dredging - October 2004

These to pictures by Mike Malzard show the dredger at work on the section of the Entrance Canal between Teapot Row and Bingswood Bypass Bridge. This section is to be relined by contractors, Galliford, starting January 2005.
Note the standard excavator mounted on the pontoon which has hydraulic jack operated stabilisers mounted at each corner.

Gauging Stop Place Dredging - November 2004

These two pictures by Peter J Whitehead show the Gauging Stop Place being dredged and cleared of debris during early November.
Note that the excavator has been demounted from the pontoon and is loading directly into the waiting vehicle.

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Cruise of the NB Laura - 2004


By Jill Malzard

This year due to family circumstances we were unable to cruise for all of the summer. So instead we had four small cruises aimed to be near enough to home if the need arose.

As usual the great debate of “Where shall we go?” took longer than the actual holidays.

Eventually we sorted out four three to four week cruises, one of them was to sample the Anderton Lift and cruise the River Weaver.

We set off from our home mooring at Furness Vale in the rain. When the rain stopped it blew a gale, this was to be the pattern of the weather throughout the four-week trip. Fortunately it wasn’t too cold.

On the Macclesfield Canal and the Trent & Mersey we have our favourite stopping places so, although we had booked our passage down and up the Anderton Lift we were in no hurry. Being retired does leave time to ponder when necessary.

One of the favoured overnight stops is on the flashes, watching the wild life and where once we had a kingfisher perch on our tiller. By the time we got there the wind was so strong it was rocking the boat, so we stopped for lunch and stayed for the rest of the day and night, ever hopeful that it will be a better day tomorrow.

Well the wind did abate but was replaced by steady rain.

The Lion Salt Works was sporting a banner urging every one to vote for it in the BBC’s Restoration programme. It is part of our history, and I have been told that there are only three more like it in the world. How true that is I have no idea. Nevertheless it would be a shame to lose another archaeological landmark. It must be on a par with Bugsworth as far as canal transportation of materials is concerned.

We arrived at Anderton and moored up ready to go down the lift at our appointed time the next morning. It was still raining.

Then came the questions?? Do we let anyone know we are here? If so where is the booking office?

Walking round the site proved to be unproductive, we found a large gate with various signs on it but no booking office and at the bottom was a “no access” notice. Obviously we weren’t welcome in there.

We walked into the Visitor Centre to find out. It is difficult to visualise that a scruffy facility block was once there. What an improvement.

The girls on the desk were not much help, so Mike’s motto being if you can’t get a satisfactory answer go to the “top”, in this case it was down the stairs. Apparently we were not supposed to be there and the security man nearly had a fit. However we met the man operating the computers and he told us just to moor up at the holding moorings and as we had booked our passage there was no need to let any one know of our arrival. The notice on the gate meant no vehicular access. That was indeed the way to the booking office only it did not actually say so!!

Now we are very simple people and like our instructions in simple easy to understand English, with no complicated idioms and flowery language. Although we both felt a bit silly not having spotted that the office had to be through that gate even by the process of elimination.

The next morning found us bright eyed and bushy tailed at the allotted mooring place waiting for our instructions to go down the lift. And yes it was still raining.

Another boat joined us and we really cheered up when we discovered he had had just as much trouble as we had finding the booking office. Later on we were told that numerous people had experienced the same difficulty, so perhaps we weren’t as stupid after all.

To be sure of a passage we had booked with BW before we left home at a cost of £5. If you go on spec it doesn’t cost you anything. Hmmm. The bright side is that upon the lift breaking down you do get priority, and it does break down far more than it should.

The BW man eventually arrived to inspect us. We evidently passed muster, the only thing was to keep the dog in the cabin. Trying to keep our dog in the cabin whilst something interesting is going on is like telling a spider to hop on three legs.

BW provide an information pack about the Weaver which is quite good if not somewhat out of date. For instance it states that everything must be removed from the roof, but the inspector did not even mention it, instead he stood and chatted to Mike who on occasions can natter for England.

Three quarters of an hour after our allotted time came the awaited “off” signal. We were told to motor under the bridge onto the aqueduct, it didn’t matter which side we went the wind would be in charge of that pushing us one side or the other. Well perversely we sampled both sides as the wind blew us side ways. As we couldn’t get into the caisson sideways there was a lot of backing and forwarding until we managed to straighten up to go in properly. Laura is a small boat and the wind can play havoc with her.

Another boat joined us on the aqueduct and we did a quiet smirk to watch him have as much difficulty as we did.

At last the guillotine gate of the caisson was lifted and we went in side by side, tying up on a convenient hook. Instructions say to tie up but there is a lack of rings or hooks to tie to.

It took about ten minutes for the downward journey to the Weaver level but nearly an hour to prepare. We passed a boat of Japanese tourists going up and the obligatory photos were taken of each other.

Suddenly we were there and the guillotine gate reopened and we sailed out on to the Weaver, turning left away from the factories towards Northwich.

The flow of the river was very mild although I am told this is not always so.

The scenery once clear of the factory was surprisingly rural and there was a lot of wild life on the river. But it is obvious that this was once a very industrialised area.

We were soon in Northwich and moored up on the town moorings through the swing bridge and set off to explore the town.

We discovered that Northwich was a very old typical Cheshire salt town, but as so often happens the new obliterates the old in places where it hasn’t been sympathetically modernised. Our first impressions were that it was full of estate agents, solicitors and banks, however on walking further we discovered the usual shops and a market. But we did enjoy exploring the town and the salt museum.

Some citizens were handing out leaflets urging everyone to cast their vote in favour of the restoration of the Lion Salt works when it came on the telly. They are trying very hard to publicise the event. Good Luck to them, I hope that success comes their way.

The two locks towards Winsford had timed passages to lock through them. This was due to a landslip on Vale Royal Lock. The time for the opening of Hunts Lock for our journey was 3.45 pm but the timing of the opening of both locks did not tie up and we could not go through Vale Royal Lock until 11.30 am the next day. Never mind there was no rush and we were enjoying the novelty of it all, not having been on the Weaver before.

Two hours before the allotted time of the opening of Hunts lock, we were tied up and waiting. Another boat joined us, and two BW men turned up in a van half an hour early. We were both let through the lock earlier than the time stated. These river locks are quite deep and BW have an ingenious way of way of getting your ropes up to ground level. The chap just lowers a rope down with a loop on it, you tie your end to this loop and he hauls them both up. No heaving of a rope from the boat in the hope that somehow it will reach the bank side bollard on the edge. Environmental Agency please take note for navigation on the Thames. In fact the lockkeepers here were quite derisory about the methods used on the Thames expecting crews to haul ropes up impossible heights.

The two BW men were very chirpy and chatted away telling us where to moor for the night and waving us cheerio and would see us tomorrow at Vale Royal Lock.

When we arrived at Vale Royal Lock there were temporary moorings leased from the fishing club to accommodate over night mooring whilst waiting for the lock. Weather wise it had improved and we were able to sit outside and chat.

It was evident why the locks were timed as the whole of the outer wall of the smaller lock had collapsed into the water. Hence we would have to be put through the big lock which had a road (all be it a one car width one) going over it.

The next morning up bright and early, although I don’t know why as the lock wasn’t due to open until 11.30 am. We were joined by more boats, some who moored on the Weaver, as by now it was Saturday, time for a weekend cruise. The first thing the BW men had to do was to empty the lock. We stayed where we were as we did not want to be caught off guard with all that water flowing out, but it actually came out from a sluice further down the river and quite gently too.

When we were all moored up in the lock to the lockkeeper’s satisfaction, the mystery of the road bridge was solved. The night before we had walked round the lock and couldn’t see where the mechanics for the swinging of the bridge were situated. However the BW men got out a large windlass and stood on the bridge where there was a spindle and as he wound the windlass the bridge and he rotated to the open position. Then he got a large hand-spike and threaded it through a paddle affair and walked round pushing it. Slowly the gates opened and we were free to go.

Unfortunately the chap moored on the out side of every one was very eager to be first away, (a common failing of posh boat owners). However he forgot he was tied on to everyone else and a near disaster was avoided by screams and abuse (for once not by Mike I hasten to add). The lock keeper gave him a lecture before he was free to go. But this did not slow him down and soon he was just a blob on the horizon.

Between the lock and Winsford is a very low bridge, Newbridge Swing Bridge, narrow boats have no difficulty in getting under it but we did notice a cruiser stop and remove all the outer cabin etc. before attempting to go under it.

We cruised at our usual sedate pace. The scenery in the Vale Royal Cut was very pretty and rural with farm land and forestry but soon gave way to the Union Salt works on our right. On our left was the Mersey Forest, but to be honest there weren’t that many trees. It is land reclaimed from once a heavily industrialised area. Personally I don’t mind industry, my view being that no industry, no exports and no economic growth so no prosperity.

The salt works held a certain fascination for me. It looked to be still working although it was Saturday but there was not a soul in sight.

Next stop was Winsford, which I found extremely disappointing. The moorings were inadequate and we were moored three out. We did try to get to the flashes but the continual rain had brought the silt down and we could not get very far before we started to scrape bottom. British Waterways responsibility ends at the road bridge in Winsford and if you get stuck further on they don’t want to know. That could be embarrassing!!

I did find a Morrisons though so replenished supplies before we retraced our steps back to some BW moorings the Winsford side of Vale Royal Lock.

By now it was raining again and on mooring up we lit the fire as we were cold and so was the dog.

The guide book said there was the site of an ancient abbey over the lock and up a track, so when the rain stopped we set off to find it. Well we found a small mound which could or could not have been the site but by then the rain had started again so we abandoned all thoughts of a pioneering nature and headed back to the boat for tea.

Sunday dawned, a cold dark drizzly morning. The locking time was 12.15 pm, so half an hour before that time there was a mass exodus from the moorings towards the lock. It was a big lock and everyone fitted comfortably into it. For once the locking times did tie up and Hunts Lock was only a short cruising time away to be there by 1.30 pm.

There are some magnificent bridges over the Weaver and a photo was taken of everyone of them!! Unfortunately the larger lock at Hunts was out of action, so the small one had to be used. This did not accommodate all the boats that had poured out of Vale Royal so two lockings were needed. We were lucky enough to be in the first and whilst we were waiting for the boats to be shepherded in Mike got talking to the guy next to us. His boat was permanently moored on the Weaver and said that the local boats make a point of trying to cruise through the locks every weekend to ensure that BW do not get any ideas about closing them.

This time Laura was next to the wall and as we went down the rope I was hanging on to got shorter and in the end I was suspended in air. Mike had forgotten to change the smaller canal ropes for the longer river ones. Luckily we were all jammed in so the boat did not drift away.

Out of the lock and into Northwich where we moored opposite a floating hotel, which is next to where the River Dane joins the Weaver.

There was no improvement on the weather the next day and we returned to the Anderton moorings where we met some friends who had booked to go down the Weaver, out at Marsh Lock on to the Ship Canal and then on to the Shropshire Union at Ellesmere Port.

Again the Lift had broken down and they were marooned at the top, both caissons being on the Weaver level.

Heading for Saltersford Lock the river began to look less friendly. The wind was howling and it had turned very cold. As we approached the lock the lockkeeper had spotted us and got it ready for us, a huge lock and our little boat lost in the space. By now we were cold and fed up so we stopped at the Acton Bridge BW moorings near the Acton Swing Bridge.

They were not ideal for the dog as there was a road running along side the bank but we were passed caring, all we wanted was to light the fire and warm up.

There was excitement the next morning when a BW van parked near the bridge and the road barriers went down. Cameras were poised ready to take photos of a big craft going under it!! But all proved to be a damp squid as nothing happened, no ship appeared and the barriers went up again.

In arrival at Dutton Lock the chap wasn’t quite ready for us and I was left hanging on to the boat whilst Mike went to have a chat with him. Apparently he was the one on the Swing Bridge earlier. The barriers have to be tested daily and if he had realised that we were interested and had not seen it opened before, he would have swung it especially for us to get our pictures!! He did tell us of good mooring spot though. Casual mooring on the Weaver is a bit difficult as the edges are very shallow and silted.

Now we were through Dutton and on the last leg to reach the end at Weston Point. On the way we passed under Dutton Viaduct, Sutton Swing Bridge and the M56 motorway as well as passing the entrance to the Frodsham Cut, which we intended to explore on the way back.

As we passed Marsh Lock, which takes you down on to the Manchester Ship Canal a large tanker sailed up the canal with a tug, exciting eh?

We travelled on past the lock up the Weston Canal to the very positive end where a very low bridge is across the water, blocking the canal off from the docks.

The whole area had the air of dereliction. Broken down lock gates leading on to disused docks that once had busy wharves, which were now deserted.

For about a mile before we got to the end on one side were factories, mostly chemical and petro chemical works all seemingly deserted, a terrorists dream!! How easy it would have been for a saboteur to do some damage. The factories were obviously working but the manpower was missing. On the other side was the Ship Canal hidden by tall banks.

We moored up on a high wall at the end on what looked as if it was a derelict lock chamber, getting on to the roof of the boat to get off. We hauled Ben up by one pulling and the other pushing, he thought it rather undignified.

Right out on the point is a disused church, which we had a yen to take a closer look but were undecided how to get to it. Weston Village was deserted so we walked back to the docks and followed the road round to it. No-one stopped or challenged us, Mike said it was because we were a little old lady and man with a scruffy dog and looked harmless. The church was Christ Church, but it was all boarded up and had a heavy-duty railed fence round it. But we did see a kestrel perched on the tower.

Retracing our steps up river this time, we turned up the Frodsham Cut. The book says there are pleasant moorings in the Cut. It was lying!! The Cut is badly silted up and it is impossible to get anywhere near the edge, a great pity as it did look a very nice place to moor. We were small enough to turn round, just, but on making our way out we hit a sand bank and tilted over rather alarmingly. Luckily we were going at a snail’s pace. With a bit of pole heaving and pushing we did drift free, but all the drawers inside the cabin had shot open.

So we moored up at the recommended spot where there was deeper water, a lovely grassy area and footpaths going off in all directions, perfect for Ben. We were soon joined by other boats including a trading boat selling diesel. He did a good trade the next morning because everyone filled up their fuel tanks before moving off.

We headed back to Anderton to the moorings there to wait for the next morning and our allotted timed passage up the lift.

It had started to rain again and was still raining the next morning when we moved to the lift moorings. We didn’t actually moor up as we were waved into the caisson as we approached. Mind you we spent an hour in there and all that time Mike was chatting to the BW man. Eventually we were raised up to the Trent & Mersey and headed for home and it was still raining!!

Yes, I did enjoy the Weaver. The BW staff were very friendly and helpful and didn’t moan when they had to put a small boat through a vast lock!! In fact they were a fund of information which was very useful.

Jill Malzard

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By Pete Yearsley

2004 - A year to remember

The year started with a New Year’s morning stroll round Northwich Community woodlands taking the River Weaver and the new Cardew’s Ferry footbridge over the Witton Brook.

We followed this in February with a walk on the Rufford Branch of the L & L. Despite being thrown off the towpath by some uncivil engineers installing a culvert, our spirits revived in the ‘Ship’ Inn at Lathom junction and we finished in a fleeting sleet shower at Parbold.

We had an informal visit to Victoria Baths in Manchester on its first open day of the year in March. The ’peoples water palace’ was winner of the BBC Restoration programme and in amongst the throng were at least fifteen IWPS members.

The April walk took on a different format to normal with us spending the morning at ‘The Secret Bunker’, a cold war seat of government, only a few hundred yards from the Shroppie near Nantwich. Edified that the great and good had been provided for whilst we vapourized, we then walked back to Nantwich basin and the welcoming warmth of the sticky tea shop.

June saw us at Moira on the Ashby Canal where a guided tour of the furnace and a walk along the newly-restored length of canal took up the allotted time so we had to save the proposed visit to Sharpe’s pottery for another day.

We met in Lancaster on the banks of the river Lune for our August walk which took us along the river by the Georgian St George’s Quay, out of town and up to Rennie’s magnificent aqueduct on the Lancaster canal. From here we returned by towpath to lunch at the ‘Waterwitch’ before exploring a little of this fascinating city, ending up back at St George’s Quay where we spent the rest of the day in the excellent Maritime Museum in the Customs House.

Our October weekend away took us to the Kennet and Avon canal in Wiltshire where we walked the Caen Hill Locks and the length to Semmington on Saturday, and the Claverton to Bradford on Avon length on Sunday. A weekend of contrasts, wet on Sunday, dryish on Saturday, the rolling farmland around Semmington and the steep wooded valleys nearer Bath. Good pubs too, the Beehive in Bradford on Saturday night where we met for a social evening, the Barge at Seend and Cross Guns at Avoncliffe where we lunched. New aqueducts and old, Dundas and Avoncliffe now have the one spanning the Semmington Bypass as a brother. The visits, though, were the highlights. Freddy’s Barn, a modern re-creation of a tithe barn built in the traditional way, we found by chance. Shown round by the enthusiastic owner, this was a delightful ‘extra’ to the day. Sunday’s walk started with a visit to the Claverton Pumping Station where we were well looked after by our hosts who gave us a guided tour of this superb example of Georgian engineering.

All in all, an excellent weekend enjoyed by everyone.

The last walk in the programme saw us in Humberside walking the Aire and Calder navigation. Starting from Beevers Bridge wharf, we walked through the flat agricultural landscape to Pollington via a short diversion down the New Junction canal. The George and Dragon at Pollington looked after us well at lunchtime and we arrived at Whitley Bridge, our destination, dead on 4 o’clock. Still much evidence of the commercial nature of the waterway can be seen with a coastal sand barge tied up at Pollington lock, but in complete harmony with the natural world with Fallow deer, hare, kingfisher being seen from the towpath. An enjoyable walk in late autumn to a corner of the system that is not visited often.

The ‘Last Walk’ along the Aire and Calder Navigation - November 27, 2004

This is the last walk I will be organising as I have just about run out of steam!! Over the years, we have visited Hull and Hampshire, Dorset and Driffield in search of waterways to walk. We’ve been to Scotland (Union and Forth & Clyde), Wales (Mon & Brec, Mont, Tennant, Neath), the west country (Dorset and Somerset, Somerset Coal Canal, Grand Western, Bridgewater & Taunton). We’ve been to the Andover, the Chelmer & Blackwater, the Stowmarket, the Leven, the Sleaford, and many, many more.

I have enjoyed organising and walking them but I think it’s time for someone else to take up the challenge. Last year we had one person taking the responsibility for each walk, perhaps this could be the answer. If you want to become involved with the walks contact either Ian Edgar or myself for further information.

Over the sixteen years the walks have been running, they have been very much a team effort. In the early days, Les Robinson and Gary Thomas took care of printing and fielding phone calls whilst latterly David Kitching and Ian Edgar have been the production team. A very big thank you to them all. But, the biggest thank you must go to everyone who has supported the walks over the years with a special mention to Fred Wardle who was on the first one on the Huddersfield Narrow in 1988 and on the last one in 2004.

Pete Yearsley 30th November 2004

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Pete Yearsley - Walks Organiser Extraordinaire

During the latest walk, arranged by Pete, along the Aire and Calder Navigation, he announced that this would be the last one he would be leading. This brought forth hoots of dismay (or was it derision) and lead to speculation just how long he had been arranging the excellent programme of canal walks.

The answer is a staggering 16 years! The first canal walk took place on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal on February 6th, 1988 and was reported in Onward 100 (May 1988). Pete’s article reporting the occasion is reproduced below.  As a precursor to the canal walks, on the 6th November 1987, Pete organised a walk up the Peak Forest Tramway from Bugsworth to Dove Holes, so, I suppose we could say it has really been 17 years!

Thanks, Pete, for the many superb walks you have organised. All were enjoyable and memorable in their way; some were wet, some cold; horizontal sleet and snow; deep mud and heavy going; warm, even hot, summer days; and, almost all featured a good pub strategically appearing at lunchtime.

Don Baines 28th November 2004

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Repeated below is Pete's first walk report as it appeared in Onward No: 100


A Walk on the West Side.

It was a few minutes before 11 a.m. on February 6th, 1988. that a small group comprising Gary Thomas, Laurence Sullivan and myself trudged through the snow down on to the towpath of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal by the portal of Standedge Tunnel and set off westward with the intention of walking the towpath to Stalybridge. Summit lock was soon reached and we were discussing its restoration by the Huddersfield canal Society when a strange figure lurched through the driving sleet towards us. That it was not a Yeti but merely Fred Wardle putting in one of his famous last minute appearances does not prevent the scene from being indelibly etched on my mind.

We tramped down the cascaded summit flight to Woolroad where the refurbished transhipment warehouse marks the start of the restored Uppermill section. Much has happened on this stretch since members of our party were involved with WRG in the early 80's digging the infill from the chambers of the two locks. The short infilled section from Woolroad to Brownhill Road has been dug out, Limekiln and Dungebooth locks are fully restored and operational and the towpath graded, showing what an asset to the community a restored canal can be. However, a short length of towpath near the visitor centre has subsided, evidence, if any were needed, that restoration of a canal is not the end of the job but day to day maintenance has to be taken into account.

After looking round the Brownhills Visitor Centre we strolled down to Uppermill for an early lunch halt and a glass of lemonade at the "Waggon Inn".

Suitably refreshed we stepped out towards Greenfield along a section which contains several dropped main road bridges, a difficult problem which will have to be tackled before through navigation is possible.

Although becoming increasingly built around below Uppermill, urbanisation seems to keep the canal at arms length and virtually as far as Stalybridge the waterway retains its open aspect.

Beyond Scout Tunnel this openness is being enhanced at Heyrod where the Hartshead Power station is being demolished. Also in this area, three more locks are undergoing extensive restoration, although those wishing to inspect the works will have to wade through some peculiarly glutinous mud to do so after first studiously disregarding the towpath diversion notices. Almost on the outskirts of Stalybridge an infilled stretch past the electricity sub-station should present no problem for channel reinstatement, but as we reached Mottram Road Basin the enormity of the task facing the restoration becomes apparent. The line has been built over through the centre of Stalybridge and although we discovered traces of locks and bridges it would require a great deal of commitment from the local authority to enable that line to be re-established. However, the alternative river route would seem to present as many problems so we resolved not to hold our breath while the solution is found.

Having reached Bayley Street Bridge well ahead of schedule and the weather having brightened considerably, we decided to walk the last couple of miles to Dukinfield Basin. This proved to be a totally industrial stretch with heavily weeded channel and a range of canalside buildings in various states, from absolute dereliction to modern with landscaped grounds reaching to the waters edge. We paused at the Tame Aqueduct, the towpath of which is presumed to be part of the original structure and the channel being carried in a later entirely separate iron trough. A little lower down we reached the last flight of locks, all three virtually restored except for paddle gear, a most encouraging sight. The parapet of the bridge, which had been extended over lock two, has been re-sited over the lock tail, requiring bottom gates to be operated by gearing, there being no room for balance beams. A couple of short side arms have been excavated by the first lock and the horse tunnel in the bridge unblocked, so we strolled through onto the towpath of the Ashton Canal and down to Dukinfield Basin, where a short wait for our lift back to Diggle to arrive allowed us to inspect some of the HCS waterborne plant moored in readiness for the future.

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